We're still nearly three months away from the start of the regular season and some of the biggest names on the free-agent market haven't even signed yet, so it is obviously time to begin looking ahead at the upcoming Fantasy season.
This far out from the start of the season, we need to take a bit of a longer view of things. As Paul George's tragic injury last week showed, so much can change in unexpected ways, making any attempt at analysis at this point somewhat pointless.
With that in mind, I'm not going to just look ahead to the 2014-15 season. There will be plenty of time for that and you'll hear more than enough from us before the first ball tips off. Instead, I present a somewhat different take -- a Keeper league Top 50.
This list looks at current value, to be certain. However, you won't find Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki or Dwyane Wade here, though they may each end up among the 50 most productive players in the league next season. You just can't depend on any of those players to provide you with much value in the coming years, even if they can manage to remain productive this season.
On this list, you might find some names who won't even be worth starting next season, but whose upside makes them worth betting on long-term. That's why Giannis Antetokounmpo cracks the top 50, even though he might not be a top 100 player this season. It's all about projection.
Honorable mentions: Jeff Teague, Kemba Walker, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, Brandon Jennings, Brandon Knight ... guard isn't a difficult position to find contributors… Dante Exum, Michael Carter-Williams, Joel Embiid, Harrison Barnes, Dion Waiters, Trey Burke, Aaron Gordon -- too little track record of top-level production to consider here… Larry Sanders, Brook Lopez, Danilo Gallinari, Deron Williams -- All four would be on the list if not for pretty major injury concerns.
50. Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks (2013 ADP: N/A)
Analysis: The ultimate blank slate, even after a year in the league. Antetokounmpo's broad skill set and youth -- still just 19 -- makes him one of the easiest players to dream on, even if his track record is still very limited.
49. Terrence Jones, F, Rockets (ADP: N/A)
Analysis: Jones should step into an even bigger role in his third NBA season, following the departure of Chandler Parsons via free agency. Though the Rockets are constantly in a state of semi-transition with their roster, Jones is a perfect fit right where he is.
48. Kenneth Faried, F, Nuggets (ADP: 75)
Analysis: His production has leveled off since his rookie season, but Faried quietly took steps forward last season. He fits well in Denver, but will never be an offensive focal point, which limits his upside.
47. Victor Oladipo, G, Magic (ADP: 74)
Analysis: Though there were some rough patches, Oladipo put together a mostly solid rookie season that showcased his ability to fill up the box score. With Arron Afflalo gone, he should take on an even larger role in Year 2.
46. Marcus Smart, G, Celtics (ADP: N/A)
Analysis: Gets the nod over Oladipo by virtue of being two full years younger. He should be a stat-sheet stuffer, though the lingering presence of Rajon Rondo potentially limits his upside in the short-term.
45. Joakim Noah, C, Bulls (ADP: 60)
Analysis: Much more valuable in yearly leagues, but his age -- 30 in February -- and history of injuries makes him more of a risk long-term. Should also see smaller role offensively than last year.
44. Goran Dragic, G, Suns (ADP: 45)
Analysis: Based solely on last season, Dragic might deserve to be 30 spots higher. However, he plays in a crowded backcourt and could be a free agent next summer, making his future somewhat cloudy.
43. Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto (ADP: 68)
Analysis: Lowry earned every penny of his $48 million contract a year ago, as he emerged as the unlikely star in the Raptors' playoff run. Lowry has shown this kind of potential in the past, but injuries and an inability to play nice with coaches kept derailing him. His track record of elite production isn't a particularly long one, but he should be a solid option at point guard for the next few years.
42. Nicolas Batum, F, Trail Blazers (ADP: 50)
Analysis: The world of Fantasy sports is dominated by the twin specters of upside and potential, which serve to underrate Batum's current production. He might not have the upside of some of the guys below him on the list, but Batum seems like a pretty safe bet to fill up the box score for years to come.
41. Paul George, F, Pacers (ADP: 16)
Analysis: George was originally in the top 15 of this ranking, but the unfortunate leg injury he suffered during a USA Basketball scrimmage obviously has significant ramifications. George seems unlikely to play this season and could need a year and a half before he is fully healthy, putting significant questions around the 24-year-old's long-term value.
40. Derrick Rose, G, Bulls (ADP: 7)
Analysis: After targeting him in the first round and getting just 10 disappointing games out of him, Fantasy owners are obviously going to be more gun shy with Rose this fall. If he can regain his MVP form this season, he will be 30 spots higher in a year.
39. Eric Bledsoe, G, Suns (ADP: 48)
Analysis: Bledsoe's expected breakout came in a big way last season as he averaged career highs across the board, though he was limited to just 43 games due to a knee surgery. This was the second time he has required surgery on his knee, with meniscus and cartilage repairs in his past. At 24, Bledsoe has shown he can be a dominant player, but injury concerns knock him down the board at a very deep position.
38. Rajon Rondo, G, Celtics (ADP: 66)
Analysis: Rondo rounds out the quartet of guards with injury concerns, but his seem to be the least troubling after he got through 30 games a year ago. He was obviously rusty, but still averaged nearly a double-double for the fourth season in a row. He should get there this season and seems like the safest bet of these four in the long-term.
37. Monta Ellis, G, Mavericks (ADP: 26)
Analysis: The move to Dallas rejuvenated Ellis a year ago, as he put together one of his most efficient seasons in years. However, he can be a free agent next summer and could leave the friendly confines of Rick Carlisle's offense.
36. Al Horford, C, Hawks (ADP: 20)
Analysis: Horford is a top 20 Fantasy option when healthy, but has now suffered two separate season-ending pectoral injuries. Few centers can match his all-around productivity and he would be 15-20 spots higher without injury concerns.
35. Chris Bosh, C, Heat (ADP: 41)
Analysis: Years spent as the third option behind two high-usage wings has left Bosh's reputation as a Fantasy option in tatters. He should begin rehabbing his image this season, and it looks like he could be the team's top offensive option for the next several years following the departure of LeBron James.
34. Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies (ADP: 23)
Analysis: Gasol's production has remained remarkably consistent over the last three seasons, but a knee injury limited him to a career-low 59 games last season. Coming off an injury, he has to be considered something of a risk in long-term leagues, since he's about to be on the wrong side of 30.
33. Nerlens Noel, C, 76ers (ADP: N/A)
Analysis: Noel sat out his entire rookie season while recovering from ACL surgery, but is still just 20 years old until April. Noel is an obvious risk due to injury and lack of track record, but he also projects as arguably the most productive defender in the league. This might be underrating his value in a keeper league.
32. Julius Randle, F, Lakers (ADP: N/A)
Analysis: Randle carries some injury concerns with him into the NBA, but the No. 7 overall pick still projects to be a strong contributor down the road. Comparisons to Zach Randolph give you a sense of just how high Randle's upside is, even if the Lakers' wonky roster construction makes him unlikely to realize that upside for a few years.
31. Derrick Favors, C, Jazz (ADP: 46)
Analysis: Favors is still just 23, despite having four full seasons of experience under his belt. He was expected to take a bigger leap forward than he did a year ago, which has some questioning his ultimate upside, but he could be a double-double machine for years to come.
30. Gordon Hayward, G, Jazz (ADP: 63)
Analysis: Hayward took well to his role as a primary creator for the Jazz last season, though his efficiency took an expected hit. He is one of the few players with 20-5-5 potential in the league, and the Jazz just locked him into a long-term contract that cements him as the franchise centerpiece.
29. DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers (ADP: 92)
Analysis: The acquisition of Doc Rivers as the Clippers' coach did wonders for Jordan, who finally broke out as the league's best rebounder at the age of 25. At this point, we probably shouldn't expect Jordan to take a step forward offensively, but his dominance as a rebounder and shot-blocker should stay constant as he enters his athletic prime.
28. Klay Thompson, G, Warriors (ADP: 56)
Analysis: The Warriors ultimately seem likely to balk at the prospect of moving Thompson in a trade, so expect more of the same from the young sharpshooter. Thompson doesn't do much more than shoot, but that's OK. He is already one of the best ever at that skill. Thompson has missed just one game in three seasons, and seems like a lock for 200-plus 3-pointers and 18-plus points per game for the foreseeable future.
27. Lance Stephenson, G, Hornets (ADP: 120)
Analysis: Stephenson is to risk as Thompson is to security, as it is difficult to say just what to expect from Stephenson moving forward. However, he should see a big increase in his role after moving to Charlotte this offseason, as he could be the team's second or third option offensively for the next few years. Stephenson is looking to cement himself as an All-Star player, and he is worth rolling the dice on.
26. Chandler Parsons, F, Mavericks (ADP: 53)
Analysis: Parsons' move to Dallas is a double-edged sword, as he could step into more of a featured role, albeit for a team that plays a bit slower than Houston. The Mavericks will have little choice but to make him a focal point and his production should only improve from here.
25. Bradley Beal, G, Wizards (ADP: 76)
Analysis: There has been a ton of hype surrounding Beal, but his production has been somewhat middling through two seasons. He has also missed time each year with recurring stress reaction issues in his legs, making him a pretty big injury risk. Having said that, Beal is still young enough that he has plenty of room to grow, and showed what he is capable of in last year's playoffs, averaging 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He is even more valuable in leagues that classify him more specifically as a shooting guard.
24. Andrew Wiggins, G, Timberwolves (ADP: N/A)
The long-rumored trade sending Wiggins to the Timberwolves has been agreed upon, which changes his long-term outlook quite a bit. He goes from possibly being a fourth option on a Cleveland team with championship aspirations to being the new cornerstone for the Timberwolves. He is still raw enough that he won't be a star from day one, but Wiggins should get plenty of chances to prove himself in Minnesota.
23. LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Trail Blazers (ADP: 18)
Analysis: Aldridge won't turn 30 until next summer, so there's some time left in his prime. Still, we might have seen the best of him a year ago, and nagging injuries have already cost him 32 games over the last three seasons. There are younger options with more upside worth gambling on over Aldridge's short-term consistency.
22. Kyrie Irving, G, Cavaliers (ADP: 10)
Analysis: Irving's star took a small hit following his third season, as he appears to have hit a plateau in his development. The addition of LeBron James should do wonders for his flagging efficiency, but there are enough questions about Irving to knock him down a few pegs at a loaded position.
21. DeMar DeRozan, G, Raptors (ADP: 58)
Analysis: DeRozan's value is only helped by leagues that differentiate between point guard and shooting guard, as he might be one of the three most productive shooting guards left. He took a big step forward last season, and should be able to maintain those gains as he heads into his prime.
20. Al Jefferson, C, Hornets (ADP: 17)
Analysis: Jefferson's plodding game might age well, but he is probably nearing the end of his peak. Still, he should be the Hornets' primary offensive option for at least the next few years, and there aren't many centers -- if any -- who can produce what he did last season.
19. Greg Monroe, C, Pistons (ADP: 28)
Analysis: If we could figure out a way to get Monroe onto a team that is more willing and able to showcase his skills, he might be a top 15 option. As things stand, this might be a bit of a stretch, though I am banking on him eventually finding a team that appreciates what Monroe brings to the table. At just 24, he could be a force for years to come.
18. Serge Ibaka, F, Thunder (ADP: 47)
Analysis: Ibaka is still young enough that we can expect him to improve, but it is difficult to see where his improvement might come from given his role on his team. The Thunder are locked into their current roster, which means Ibaka's ceiling is likely as a third offensive option, though his developing three-point shot should help him continue to make incremental improvements.
17. Damian Lillard, G, Trail Blazers (ADP: 14)
Analysis: Lillard five spots ahead of Kyrie Irving might be a controversial take, since Irving is a few years younger and put up nearly identical numbers last season. However, Lillard brings one more elite skill to the table than Irving, as the 218 3-pointers he made in 2013-14 are the 22nd highest single-season total ever. That, along with Lillard's durability, make him a slightly safer pick for the next few years.
16. Carmelo Anthony, F, Knicks (ADP: 9)
Analysis: There is no arguing against Anthony's production, especially after he took another incremental step forward next season. He is locked in with the Knicks long-term and should remain the focal point as long as he is there, so his role isn't really in question. However, Anthony has been hampered a bit by shoulder injuries over the last few years, and just turned 30, so injury concerns knock him down a peg or two.
15. Kawhi Leonard, F, Spurs (ADP: 71)
Analysis: This is an aggressive ranking, but it probably isn't one many would disagree with. Expectations for Leonard have been high for the last few years, and he has probably been a bit overrated by Fantasy owners as a result. Over three full NBA seasons, we only have a couple of months, plus two NBA Finals, in which his production has justified this kind of ranking. Still, Leonard's all-around skill set and youth make him someone worth gambling on.
14. Russell Westbrook, G, Thunder (ADP: 15)
Analysis: What to make of Russell Westbrook? For five seasons, he barely took a minute off, emerging as one of the league's most durable players. Last season, however, he required three separate surgeries on his right knee, ultimately missing 36 games. If Westbrook can get through this season without any issues, he should jump another five spots -- at least -- but there are enough question marks around him right now to increase the risk.
13. Dwight Howard, C, Rockets (ADP: 11)
Analysis: The best of Howard is probably behind him, as he prepares to turn 29 this December and with back surgery in his past. Still, 18 to 19 points and 12 to 13 rebounds per game is pretty good. Center is still a shallow position and Howard is about as good as it gets.
12. Chris Paul, G, Clippers (ADP: 4)
Analysis: There really isn't any argument against the kind of production Paul provides when he is on the floor, especially after he led the league in assists and steals per game while scoring 19.1 points per game in 2013-14. Unfortunately, he missed 20 games, bringing his total to 32 over the last two years. Paul turns 30 at the end of this season, and is too much of an injury risk at this point to be a top 10 option long-term.
11. John Wall, G, Wizards (ADP: 12)
Analysis: Wall put it all together last season, appearing in every game while averaging 19.3 points and 8.8 assists per game. Wall is an elite stat-sheet stuffer who nailed 100-plus 3-pointers last season, shoring up the lone flaw in his game. At 24, Wall is just now hitting his prime, and only the deep position at which he plays keeps him out of the top 10.
10. Jabari Parker, F, Bucks (ADP: N/A)
There is a pretty big gap between Parker and the other rookies on this list, and a lot of that has to do with where he landed. The Bucks were a disaster a year ago and are in desperate need of an offensive centerpiece. Parker should be that from day one, with plenty of room to grow. No under-20 player can match his Fantasy upside.
9. James Harden, G, Rockets (ADP: 3)
So many young guards have taken the leap into stardom over the last year, it almost seems like Harden has become overshadowed a bit. Maybe his game isn't the most aesthetically pleasing one, but it sure is effective for Fantasy purposes. Harden will be just 25 entering the season, so anyone grabbing him in a keeper league this year will be getting his prime years. Lucky you.
8. Andre Drummond, C, Pistons (ADP: 72)
Analysis: Drummond isn't yet as productive as Dwight Howard, but he is on an awfully familiar career path. In fact, Drummond might be even better than Howard was after two seasons. The scary part about that is Howard took a leap to nearly 18 points per game in his third season. Drummond could be the most dominant Fantasy center in the league as soon as the 2015-16 season.
7. Stephen Curry, G, Warriors (ADP: 5)
Analysis: The only thing holding Curry back from a top five ranking here is the depth of his position. He is clearly the most valuable guard in the league, but not by such a wide margin that you are lost if you miss out on him.
6. Kevin Love, F, Cavaliers (ADP: 6)
Analysis: The long-awaited trade sending Love to Cleveland finally went down -- barring an unforeseen setback -- but it doesn't change Love's long-term outlook much. Sure, he has to share the court with two other ball-dominant wings now, but his skill set is unique enough that it shouldn't impact him too much -- if anything, he'll be even more efficient, as he bombs away from three-point range uncontested. As a bonus, he could step into an even larger role in the coming years, as LeBron slides out of his prime.
5. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings (ADP: 19)
Analysis: The scariest thing about the gaudy per-game numbers Cousins has put up so far in his career is he hasn't even averaged 33 minutes per game in any season. A Love-esque 25-12-4 season is in play for Cousins in the next year or two.
4. Blake Griffin, F, Clippers (ADP: 8)
Analysis: Griffin and Love have pretty identical value, with Love getting a small edge in production. Griffin makes up for that gap by being one of the most durable players in the league -- since sitting out the first season after he was drafted, Griffin has missed just four games in four seasons.
3. LeBron James, F, Cavaliers (ADP: 1)
Analysis: If we are just talking about next year, James jumps up a spot. If it is just the next two, there's still a case. Beyond that, when James will be 32, it is hard to see him not taking at least a small step back. Of course, James is several large steps away from falling out of the top five, given his durability and all-around excellence.
2. Anthony Davis, C, Pelicans (ADP: 29)
Analysis: I am not on board with the movement that calls for Davis to go No. 2 in re-draft leagues this season. We still need to see him get through an entire season healthy before going that far. The injury concerns are real, though the good news is he doesn't have any one nagging injury that has lingered over the last few years. Davis' potential to fill up the box score might be unparalleled in the current NBA, and he won't even be 22 until March.
1. Kevin Durant, F, Thunder (2013-14 ADP: 2)
Analysis: Kevin Durant turns 26 in late September. We probably haven't even seen the best from him yet. Whether you have the first pick in a re-draft or keeper league, you won't make an easier decision this year.